RACE: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; Ford EcoBoost 400
TRACK: Homestead-Miami Speedway
DRIVER: Carl Edwards
CAR: No.19 Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: Finished 4th in the points standings for 2016 Sprint Cup Series season
Edwards and the No. 19 ARRIS team traveled to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the finale of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as one of the “Championship 4”. This was Edwards’ first shot to compete for the championship in Homestead since 2011. The No. 19 ARRIS Toyota was very fast right off the hauler and everything was lining up for a great run on the 1.5-mile oval. Edwards qualified 10th and statistically Homestead-Miami Speedway was Edwards’ best track. When the green flag dropped for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Edwards darted like a rocket driving up for the lead by passing Kevin Harvick on lap 32. His Camry had good balance, but Crew Chief Dave Rogers did make air and wedge adjustments throughout the race. Edwards led eight times for 47 laps and seemed to be the fastest car on the track, running the majority of the race either leading or in second place. The ARRIS crew would keep Edwards in the top-2 through the pit stops and Edwards wheeled the race of his life in an epic battle for several laps with Joey Logano and teammate Kyle Busch. A late caution on lap 253 would bring the leaders back down pit road and Edwards lined up in the second position under the leader in the front row for the restart. Edwards' next best shot at a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship ended in a nine car crash in turn 1 on a restart with 10 laps to go. When the race went green Edwards moved low to block Logano, another Championship 4 driver. Logano hit Edwards rear bumper shooting him off into the inside wall, then he came back up across the track and slammed into the outside wall. Unfortunately a very promising night immediately turned into a very disappointing night and Edwards’ Championship hopes were dashed as NASCAR scored him in the 34th position on lap 259. Edwards’ night ended with a long walk to the infield medical center to get checked out. He showed poise and class as he came out of the care center and addressed the media. Edwards finished the 2016 season 4th in drivers points as Jimmie Johnson won the race by leading the last two laps capturing his seventh Sprint Cup Series Championship.
Carl Edwards’ Post-Race Thoughts:
Who has responsibility for the accident?
“Yeah, I think it was shared, you know what I mean? I think it was just racing. I haven’t seen a real close up view, but the way I had it figured is first of all that was the race of my life up to that point. That was a lot of fun and Joey (Logano) was so good on the short run. I don’t know how he got that restart. It was a really good restart. I thought we were – I thought everything was going to work out and Jason (Hedlesky, spotter) told me he was looking low and I – he told me basically he was there. I knew what Jason was saying and I just pushed the issue as far as I could because I figured that was the race there and so here let me watch it again. Yeah, Joey just timed it perfectly, he moved down, I thought I could feel him a little and I just thought that – I was probably a little optimistic, but I thought I could clear him or force him to lift. I just thought I had just a little more time, but he drove down as far as a guy could be expected to drive down and that’s how it ended. I don’t know what the caution was for. I really hope it was something that we needed to have a caution for because that was really – that was going really well.”
What did you say to the 22 team and did you apologize?
“Yeah, no apology. I just wanted to say, ‘Hey, that’s just racing and good luck to you guys.’ There’s so much on the line. I want to make sure that – I don’t want to be anything extra to mess with Joey (Logano). He’s done a good job and they deserve to go have a good, fair race. I hope Kyle (Busch) gets it. I just can’t than everybody enough – all of my fans, ARRIS, Toyota, Subway, everybody that came down here to support me, Comcast, SportClips – I’m a little ashamed of my haircut, I need one – and I thought we had it. This is – that was frustrating.”
How will you reflect on this race?
“It was so much fun to drive up through those guys. This track is perfect. It’s such a blast to drive. The Goodyear tires are great. We’re sliding around doing everything we can and having a really good time. Running Kyle (Busch) down and racing him like that and for him to race me that hard and that fair was so cool. I just hated to see that caution. That was very, very frustrating. I felt like that was our race and our championship, but hey this is how racing goes.”
How did your race team get you in a position to win a championship?
“They put it in my hands. That’s all you can ask for. Dave Rogers (crew chief), my guys, everybody, they did a good job. It didn’t work out. This is life. We performed well. We did our best. I just risked too much and Dave told me before this race it’s a pretty big reward and remember risk gets reward and I just had to push it. I couldn’t go to bed tonight and think that I gave him that lane. I’ll watch the rest of the race and I am telling you this team is going to be on fire next year. You watch out. This is going to be awesome.”
What happened to take you out of the race?
“Joey (Logano) was so good on the short run that I knew I couldn’t give it to him. I couldn’t give him that lane. I went down there and blocked and he went down there as far as a guy could expect to go down and I just thought – I thought we were going to possibly hit. I just thought I’d have a little more time to correct it, but we were so far down there we couldn’t go any farther down and basically we ended up wrecked, so that’s the way things go sometimes. This race – I was so proud of my guys. I was so happy with the performance. That run to catch Kyle (Busch) and pass him that was everything I had. That was the drive of my life and we didn’t yield a championship, but I have a lot of pride in how we performed.”
What did you tell Todd Gordon when you went to the 22 pit box?
“I just wanted to make sure that they knew and they could tell Joey (Logano) – I don’t know if Joey cares or not – I assume he does, but I just wanted to make sure he knew that was just racing in my opinion and that’s hard racing and I wished them luck.”
How would you sum up this race?
“This was a pretty dynamic race. I thought we were going to just kill them the first half of the race and then at the end Joey (Logano) – they stepped it up. They’ve got some real speed on the short runs, so I think Kyle (Busch) is going to have his hands full with him on this short run. Hopefully Kyle can get the win and a championship. But, man, just a fun race. I wish it didn’t end like that. My guys deserve better than that. Hindsight obviously it would’ve been better to be a little less aggressive and maybe race him but man I thought if he got in front of me it’s over.”
How much motivation will this championship run provide for next season?
“The neatest thing about tonight was when we restarted fifth and marched through those guys all the pressure and all of the stress – I’ve got to really credit what we went through in 2011 and the mental toughness with this team with just getting us up to the front, getting ahead of the pack and that caution was very deflating. It was very frustrating, but, yeah, it’s racing and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Did you feel like you had to be more aggressive because it was the end of the race?
“Early in the race, I didn’t have to be that aggressive on the restarts because I could pick them off really quickly afterwards. Late in the race, Joey (Logano) was so strong for the first five laps. If he got in front of me I really believe the race was over, so that’s why I was so aggressive and obviously it was too aggressive, but as I was going down there I thought I could feel him a little bit and I thought I’d be able to turn right at the last minute. I thought I’d be able to get out in that situation if I needed to and I just couldn’t.”
What were you thinking during the walk from Turn 1?
“I had a lot of thoughts on that walk. That was – just it’s hard to – you put so much into this and so many people push so hard and you don’t get opportunities like this very often, so I just hope that pretty quickly I can get over the frustration and look at this for what it is. It was a great opportunity and really up until the end it was a lot of fun.”
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